27 Mar 2013

Arescet - The Crackling of Embers [Demo] (2013, Self-released)

Some bands take years from their initial creation till they release anything. Arescet, a band formed in Denmark in 2012, have managed to release 26 minutes worth of atmospheric black metal on their first demo, The Crackling of Embers, in spite of them having had some unavoidable lineup changes early on in their carreer.
One might think that a demo released such a short time after the birth of a band would be indicative of something of a make-shift nature, or perhaps music that would be somehow lacking. But I found that Arescet are mighty potent in their songwriting, and though the demo only counts two tracks - "The Crackling of Embers" and "Extinguished" - these two tracks are displays of a fair amount of skill on the bands' behalf.

Getting down to basics with Arescet is pretty straightforward. The two tracks are more or less textbook examples of how to write good atmospheric black metal, meaning that the Danish band avoids the obvious pitfalls of writing songs that are too monotonous. While some bands of the genre favor this style I mostly find it to be mundane, tedious and downright boring. There are plenty of examples of bands that do it well, but ultimately this tendency is rather dreary. Arescet manage to write music in this style that has just enough variation to surprise the listener once in a while, and I found that the funeral doom-influenced passages that are strewn around the songs are more than adequate for that sole purpose.

This genre can be described with a bunch of adjectives such as droning, irksome, weary, insipid and dreary, but all these descriptors can be both positive and negative. As is the case with Arescet and their first demo. The music shows great promise and reveal a band that may well have more in store for us in the future, but the things that make Arescet's music great are the same things that ultimately make it a bit humdrum. I have often lauded Ash Borer as a band that succeeded in making atmospheric black metal catchy. Their music features plenty of what I'd almost call "hooks", and this is exactly what Arescet need. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to their demo "The Crackling of Embers", but in the end it all seemed a bit nondescript and commonplace. The funeralesque break in The Crackling of Embers and the morose part permeated in melancholy in the second half of Extinguished are the closest things we come to making the demo truly distinguishable. As such I feel that Arescet's first demo is a release that bears a promise of better things to come and at the same time leaves me wanting more and looking forward to what they might come up with next. 7/10 guitars.

1. The Crackling of Embers
2. Extinguished

ARESCET official Facebook site

23 Mar 2013

Edge of Haze - Mirage [Full length] (2012, Self-released)

Finland has long been the country of esoteric death, gloomy doom, upbeat folk and symphonic and/or gothic power. Along comes a band such as Edge of Haze that follows none of the current trends of their nation; Edge of Haze presents itself on their 2012 album "Mirage" as a powerful quintet with influences beyond count. They've been described as progressive metal, symphonic doom metal aswel as going under numerous other terms, but in reality the Finnish band is one of those bands that is hard to categorize.

Where do I even begin with such a release? Mirage holds 7 tracks to a total playtime of 37 minutes, which in itself may not sound like much for a band with doom metal influences, but I found that 35-40 minutes is actually very fitting for an album with this amount of different inputs. I think most people will think Mirage is too pop-ish for their metal tastes, and in all honesty Edge of Haze's first album is an acquired taste. For me it was hard to get properly into their strange mix of progressive song structures and solos, power metal influenced riffs, gloomy atmosphere, gothic focus and particularly their mainstream predisposition.

Somehow the Finnish quintet has carved their own niche from these materials, and they play their rather unique style pretty well. I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy some of it. However, it does have that feeling of mainstream rock music, and a song such as the annoyingly catchy "In the Place Where I Belong" especially sounds alot like something you'd hear on the radio or something similar.

Edge of Haze is no doubt a band with ambitions. Their album is well produced and well thought through, and their myriad of influences provides the album with enough variation to not become boring. It's not entirely uninteresting, and the final product is actually pretty memorable, if not of the most heavy material. 7/10 guitars.

1. Mirage
2. Certainty
3. Attitude
4. Inside
5. In the Place Where I Belong
6. Auguries
7. Black Lakes

EDGE OF HAZE official Facebook site

17 Mar 2013

Skinfather - Succession / Possession [EP] (2013, Life and Death Records)

Death metal never quite goes out of fashion. Death metal is always the new black, and when you thought every aspect of death metal had been put completely through its paces, a new band comes along and gives the genre new life. The Carolina-based death metal band "Skinfather" may not be the most unique of bands, but they excel in the fact that they write really good death metal with a heavy tinge of the early Swedish scene.

The EP that the band rather aptly named "Succession / Possession" features nothing more than 3 tracks, two of which are original compositions, and as such is a bit on the short side of things. Clocking in at around 12 minutes I'd like to start out by saying that it feels a bit short. Just when you're really getting into the music the EP is over, and it's a damn shame, 'cause the music really is something. The EP, while rather short, falls under the category "short and simple, yet enjoyable". It's clear that the band is right on the money with this style, because they play it vigorously well and collectively have a great sense for pace and dynamics.

"Succession" couldn't be more rightfully named. Skinfather follow the same trends that the titans of the Swedish scene did in the late 80's and early 90's, though with a slower, less thrashy feel to it. As such the American band added to the time-tested recipe a higher sense of power and heaviness than the bands they succeed. Likewise the song "Possession" leaves me with no doubt that the band are possessed by the will to make great death metal.

As I said earlier the EP is a bit shorter than what I'd have liked. The cover of "Execute Them All", originally written by Unleashed, goes great hand in hand with Succession and Possession as the three tracks are all propelled by the same heavy, groovy power that Skinfather so masters, but when we get down to the numbers, a third of the EP consists of covers. The cover is very well executed and fits well with the rest of the material, but I feel as though Skinfather's own material would be better presented in a larger quantity, though that may also become tedious, seeing as the band's songs are mostly composed of the same slow or mid-tempo riffs which have a very heavy feel to them. This recipe is what I enjoy most about them, and two songs most likely aren't representative of the band's writing ability, but an entire album of this exact formula might be overkill.
Obviously this is all guess work, so to sum things up, Skinfather display themselves as a mighty force in death metal songwriting, and for the prodigious power they represent on Succession / Possession I give them 8/10 guitars.

1. Succession
2. Possession
3. Execute Them All (Unleashed Cover)

SKINFATHER official Facebook site
Life and Death Records official site

10 Mar 2013

Six in Line - U Shud Hev Invtd Me [Demo] (2011, Self-released)

I like when a band doesn't take itself all too seriously. If a musician takes everything a bit too seriously it often results in coming across as self-important or pompous, but on the other hand it can easily go the other way too. In most cases so-called "comedy" or "humour" bands are too busy living out their own inside-jokes to produce good, worthwhile music, so in essence what I'm saying is that it's all about finding a middle way.

Six in Line from Sweden are at heart a thrash metal band, but with the aesthetics of a comedy band. The three tracks on their second release, the demo "U Shud Hev Invtd Me", are primarily comprised of mid-to-high tempo thrash riffs, pounding drums and vocals that can probably be best described as "unique". I'll get back to this later.
The demo starts off with a sort of spooky halloween-ish riff, and I found that this was more or less a recurring theme on U Shud Hev Invtd Me with that type of melodies being prominent in both "You Should Have Invited Me" and the gangshout-ridden "We Intend to Hang You". It works fairly well for the Swedish band, and when all is said and done this element is what to me sounds like their strongest point. Their vein of thrash metal works pretty well for them, but if it wasn't for the melodic riffs to top it all off their material would be an unmemorable, incoherent mess.

My main complaint with Six in Line's second demo is the vocals. Remember that I said they were rather unique? That's a nice way of saying they suck tremendously. Kaptajn Nuke's raw, discordant screaming is simply too out of place and annoying to the main form of singing in such a band.
The music in itself isn't completely terrible, but something about it just makes me get tired of it really fast. Probably the fact that it sounds pretty undynamic - I'm not saying that they lack variation, but the music really does go on and on in the same vein all the time with no clearly defined verse, chorus or anything else that might resemble structure.
Let's compare Six in Line with Hellhammer. Hellhammer's sound is completely raw and awful, they could barely play their instruments, Tom Warrior's vocals were pretty amateurishly done and their sense for song writing was at times pretty unmatured due to their inexperience. And yet they were fuckin' awesome. I'd like to credit that awesomeness to memorable song structures. Riffs like the one in "Reaper" and choruses like in "Crucifixion" make Hellhammer really easy to remember, and while Six in Line definitely have the upper hand when it comes to technicality, playing skill and production, they simply lack that memorability created by having a great sense of songwriting, which Tom Warrior later proved with Celtic Frost.

Six in Line may yet come through and prove their worth as a band. Their latest demo to me isn't much in terms of musicianship, but they do have their moments. Perhaps they still need to find their style, but right now I can only give "U Shud Hev Invtd Me" 5 guitars.

1. You Should Have Invited Me
2. Plato O Plomo
3. We Intend to Hang You

SIX IN LINE official Facebook site

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